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Province says 'no' to dredging sand in Sylvan Lake

The province has thrown cold water on any plan to dredge up a new beach in Sylvan Lake, saying it would not be allowed.

However, sun and sand lovers will have another option as town council intends to go ahead with a $25,000 plan to create a new beach in an open area at the southeast corner of the pier.

About 15 to 20 cm of sand will be laid down to create the artificial beach, which will be ready for this swimming season.

Mayor Susan Samson anticipates the spot will be popular with summer visitors.

“That’s probably one of the top complaints when it comes to the waterfront area is the lack of sand. So I think it’s going to be a step in the right direction to solving that problem,” said Samson.

The town has watched its beach disappear over the last few years because of rising lake levels.

In February, town Coun. Sean McIntyre suggested the town take one last look at whether a former practice could be revived of dredging up sand to create a new beach below the sea wall.

The idea was put to the provincial park officials, and the answer was a big “No.”

“From an environmental perspective, the dredging of sand from the lake bed would not be approved,” says a response from Grant Santo, an operations manager with Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

“Although this type of activity occurred in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it is no longer an approved activity for this type of project.”

Santo went on to say that dumping new sand also is not generally approved because it adds sediment to the lake, can introduce weeds and affect habitats for fish and other species.

Trying to create a beach by dumping sand also doesn’t work. In 2004, without authorization a local business dumped 12 truckloads of sand into the water to create a beach. It lasted less than two years before wave action against the sea wall pushed the sand back out into the lake.

Samson said the province’s response makes it very clear the town’s options are limited when trying to restore beach front.

“I think as stewards of the lake we have to recognize what our role is and we can’t change nature. We have to learn to live with the lake levels.”

Some are predicting that climate change will bring more drought to this region. In that scenario, lake levels may drop again to the point where the water warms and blue-green algae becomes a problem.

“You have to be careful what you wish for.”



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